The Big Dumper leads NC’s representation in MLB postseason

Cal Raleigh is providing October drama for Seattle

Cullowhee native Cal Raleigh, who helped the Mariners reach the postseason for the first time in two decades, batted .500 with a home run and 3 RBIs in Seattle's two-game sweep of Toronto in the American League Wild Card Series. (Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press via AP)

October is famous for crowning new cult heroes during baseball’s postseason, and this year has already found a prime candidate to join them: The Big Dumper.

Cal Raleigh’s nickname — which celebrates the Seattle catcher’s generous backside — is enough to attract the spotlight, but as his Mariners advance through their first trip to the postseason in two decades, he’s stepped up as the team’s man in the clutch. He clinched Seattle’s postseason berth with a pinch-hit walk-off home run at the end of the regular season, then helped the Mariners dispatch the Blue Jays in the Wild Card Series, leading the team by hitting .500 with three RBIs and a 1.556 OPS.

As his surname might imply, Raleigh has North Carolina roots. The Cullowhee native attended Smoky Mountain High in Sylva before heading to Florida State to continue his baseball career.

Raleigh isn’t the only player whose path to MLB’s Division Series ran through North Carolina.

One of his teammates, Mariners starting pitcher George Kirby, played for Elon from 2017 to 2019 before Seattle selected him in the first round of the 2019 draft. After going 8-5 for the Mariners this year, he earned a save in the deciding game of the Wild Card Series.

Two other products of colleges in the state are competing in the second round of this year’s postseason, both for the Dodgers, who finished the regular season with the best record in MLB.

Trea Turner will be playing shortstop for the Dodgers and hunting his second World Series ring — he won with Washington in 2019. The former NC State star led MLB in at-bats this year and hit .298 with a career-high 100 RBIs to go with 21 homers and 27 steals.

Reliever Evan Phillips will be a key member of the Los Angeles bullpen. Phillips played at UNC Wilmington out of Clayton High and was drafted by the Braves in 2015. In addition to playing here for high school and college, Phillips also followed the other common path through the state — playing here for one of North Carolina’s several minor league teams. He was a member of last season’s Triple-A champion Durham Bulls.

Phillips is one of 12 former Bulls in the Division Series, including at least one on seven of the eight remaining teams. Phillips is joined on the Dodgers by David Price (2008, ’09). The Braves feature Guillermo Heredia (2019), Jake Odorizzi (2013) and Kirby Yates (2012-15). Atlanta also features a former Bull in the dugout in manager Brian Snitker.

Ryne Stanek (2016-18) is on the Astros. Diego Castillo (2017-18) is on the Mariners. Luke Maile (2015-16) is a member of the Guardians.

The Phillies have two ex-Bulls in Jose Alvarado (2017-19) and David Robertson (2021). Robertson pulled a double trip through the state. He also played for the independent High Point Rockers last season.

The Padres have three former Bulls in Jake Cronenworth (2018-19), Blake Snell (2015-17) and Wil Myers (2013). Like Evan Phillips, Myers has deep roots in the state. He’s originally from Thomasville and played at High Point’s Wesleyan Christian Academy. After he was drafted by the Royals, he began his pro career with a trip to Burlington, which used to be the home to their low Class A team.

Durham isn’t the only team represented in the postseason. The Greensboro Grasshoppers have 10 players in action: Philadelphia’s J.T. Realmuto (2011), Atlanta’s Dylan Lee (2017) and Marcell Ozuna (2010-11), Austin Barnes and Andrew Heaney (both 2012) of the Dodgers, Austin Nola (2012) of the Padres, Seattle’s Luis Castillo (2015), Giancarlo Stanton (2008) and Domingo German (2014) of the Yankees, and Cleveland’s Josh Naylor (2016),

The Astros have had a presence in North Carolina, with farm teams in Buies Creek a few years ago, and now Fayetteville. Eleven members of the team have played for one or both of those teams on their way up to the bigs: Chas McCormick, Jeremy Pena, Jake Meyers, Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, Bryan Abreu, Luis Garcia, Jose Urquidy, Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker and David Hensley. Former Astro Myles Straw, now on Cleveland, also went through Buies Creek.

The Hickory Crawdads are the next most represented team with seven players still in action: The Yankees’ Jose Trevino (2015) and Isiah Kiner-Falefa (2014-15), Seattle’s Dylan Moore (2015-16), San Diego’s Nick Martinez (2012) and Jurickson Profar (2011, 2015) and the Dodgers’ Hanser Alberto (2012) and Joey Gallo (2013).

The White Sox didn’t make the postseason, but their farm teams in Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Kannapolis have some representation in the Dodgers’ Trayce Thompson, Yency Almonte and Tommy Kahnle, and the Yankees’ Frankie Montas.

Four former Carolina Mudcats are playing: Atlanta’s A.J. Minter (2016), San Diego’s Trent Grisham (2017) and Mike Clevinger (2014). The Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman (2011) also played for the Mudcats but was left off New York’s roster after missing a mandatory workout.

Rounding out the state’s minor league products are Atlanta’s Tyler Matzek (Asheville Tourists), Los Angeles’ Tyler Anderson (Asheville), Cleveland’s Emmanuel Clase (Down East) and Seattle’s Carlos Santana (Kinston).

Regardless of which teams advance, fans in the state will have someone to root for throughout October — and it all starts with the Big Dumper.